Southwark Green Party

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Social justice

Environmental action

Quality of life

We support dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all We believe in the need for urgent collective action on a liveable environment We campaign for services, an economy and community that work for everyone

LATEST NEWS HEADLINES

Shadows loom over Burgess Park

View of St George's Church from Burgess Park

We have objected to the 10-storey development proposed for Burgess Business Park in Camberwell primarily because it is too tall, and will overshadow Burgess Park, harming the new wildlife area and the enjoyment of the park by local people. Burgess Park is both ecologically important and a vital breathing space for people living in densely built up areas of Southwark along the Walworth Road and Old Kent Road. This is only one of several schemes planned for Parkhouse Street. If passed, this development would set a precedent for other inappropriately tall buildings along the boundary of the park.

Overshadowing newly planted wildlife areas

Burgess Park is designated as Metropolitan Open Land and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, and under Southwark Council’s Core Strategy should have protection from inappropriate building. The height of this proposed development raises serious concerns, given its location adjoining the park, and in particular the wildlife area of the park (which has recently been replanted at significant public expense).

The proposed development is sited with insufficient set-back from the boundary of the park and will adversely affect biodiversity, causing damage to tree roots during construction work, impacting on nesting birds and other wildlife, and overshadowing trees and other planting.

Protect mature trees as part of the response to the Climate Emergency

The tree survey commissioned by the applicant and undertaken in June 2016 fails to give sufficient consideration to the ecological value of the trees within or adjacent to the site, which form part of a green corridor linking the park with the church and surrounding streets. In March 2019, Southwark Council Assembly voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency, committing Southwark to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. To meet this target, it is essential that mature trees such as those adjoining 21-23 Parkhouse Street are protected from inappropriate redevelopment.

Breaching the aims of the New Southwark Plan

Southwark Green Party is not opposed in principle to the redevelopment of Burgess Business Park. However, we object to this proposed development, which – at 10 storeys high – fails to preserve the character of the existing area, in breach of the stated aims of the New Southwark Plan. The surrounding conservation area is comprised mainly of two-storey Victorian and Georgian houses, in some cases grade 2-listed, and includes St George's Church (1824).

The proposed development will be obtrusively visible from within Burgess Park, destroying the special character of tranquillity and tree-lined horizons found in the park now.

Southwark Green Party welcomes the increase in social rented housing to 50% in this revised planning application, and recognises that this exceeds the minimum 35% affordable homes under Southwark Council’s planning policies. However, we note that density is higher than the maximum 700 habitable rooms per hectare set out in Southwark’s Residential Design Standards Special Planning Guidance (2015). We are also concerned that the workspaces available for artists to rent will be smaller and more expensive than those in the building currently occupying the site.

The Burgess Business Park site has the potential to deliver much-needed affordable housing and workspace but redevelopment must not come at the expense of the existing community, green spaces and the council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan. We therefore object to this planning application.

 

Southwark Green Party made a formal response to the planning application for 21-23 Parkhouse Street, SE5 (Planning reference 19/AP/0469) making the above points.

Moving on from Southwark's disappointing Movement Plan

The Movement Plan approved by Southwark Council in 2019 (download here) claims to be a bold vision to change how we get around the borough over the next 20 years. How does it measure up in the light of Southwark Council’s declaration of a climate emergency at the end of March 2019?

Let’s start with the good news. We’re told that 77% of Southwark people who were surveyed support reducing traffic. And there’s an  exciting sounding policy to introduce street closures to reallocate space for people.  But as we read on, what sounded like a commitment to deliver more healthy streets turns out to be a commitment to ‘explore’ acting – is this code for commissioning more studies from consultants? In fact the whole document falls down on a lack of detailed commitments and deadlines.

Will the Movement Plan really help us to walk and cycle more?

Many more people would like to cycle if only it felt safe, rather than having to jostle with drivers cutting through residential areas.. Similarly, many people hop on the bus for a short journey because the alternative – perhaps a noisy, polluted, grubby street with a pavement that’s a bit too narrow for comfort – just isn’t appealing. Imagine how different it would be if you positively chose to walk those ten minutes because it gave you a chance to go through a small park, pick up groceries or walk side by side, chatting with friends. (This is called, in the jargon, ‘suppressed demand’ for walking and cycling).

It’s cheering to see here a map of the full cycle network proposed in 2015 in the accompanying Local Implementation Plan (under 'Action 4'). But no quality standards, funding or delivery deadlines are proposed - so about as useful as a freshly painted cycle logo on a rat-run. Nor does it show TfL's proposed routes, including the flagship Rotherhithe Bridge. (The Mayor pulled the plug on the Rotherhithe Bridge in June - Caroline Russell has called for a free ferry crossing to be put in place quickly instead).

There’s a new walking network map, but it lacks routes, particularly in the southern half of borough and on the Rotherhithe peninsula. And with funding focused on 'fun' interventions and promotion, maybe this will be a 'virtual' network, something you will only see with an Augmented Reality app?

It’s great to see that the council plans again to allow contraflow cycling on all one-way streets. Initially proposed in 2015, the only thing that has happened since is that the council lost the money it had earmarked for this. But there are no actions related to equality in cycling – making it possible for all ages and abilities to cycle safely. And the text is far too vague when it comes to promises to extend 'the cycle hire schemes' across the borough. Maybe that’s because the clear commitment to do so in Southwark Labour’s 2014 manifesto still hasn’t been met. We all know there is a massive hole in the availability of Santander hire bikes in London – and that hole is in Southwark!

TfL map of docking stations showing red dots over north and west London but no stations south or east of Elephant and Castle

Transport for London map showing  hire bike docking stations in red. (Interactive version here)

So tell us, Southwark Council, will you invest in getting TfL hire bikes installed all the way to Rotherhithe and Camberwell? We don’t want another debacle like the Mobo and ofo bike hire schemes, which had to be abandoned after a less than a year. We want to be part of a reliable, London-wide scheme. Tell us where and by when we can expect them!

You’ll never miss a target if you never set one

When it comes to targets, the Movement Plan is seriously disappointing. There is still no target to reduce motor traffic before 2041. With Southwark Council having passed a motion to ‘do all it can to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030’, and emissions from the transport sector being the biggest single source,we need real leadership on the actions that will make that possible.

The Movement Plan does include a target to reduce 10% morning peak freight traffic by 2026. In other words taking seven years to reduce traffic by 3% for three hours per day! The Belgian city of Ghent reduced all rush hour motor traffic by 12% in just the first year of its 'filtered permeability' plan.

Progress in reducing collisions on Southwark streets has stalled since 2013 and has now gone into reverse. But there are no new actions proposed on road safety other than ‘working with the police’ and installing moped anchors to secure powered two wheelers safely’.

What would we do? Read our proposals for cutting carbon through changing the way we get around.

 

 

 

Proposals for cutting carbon by changing Southwark streets

In March 2019, Southwark Council passed a motion to ‘do all it can to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030’. Transport is the biggest single source of carbon emissions in our borough, so  we need real leadership on transport to change the way we get around and deliver goods.

Here are some proposals from Southwark Green Party for the kind of interventions we will need to meet the target of going climate neutral by 2030.

1. Green our streets

Southwark's own reports show that the borough has lost 1,000 street trees in the last ten years.

We would make sure all these lost trees are replaced, and plant new trees to absorb carbon and clean particulate pollution from the air. By replacing a car parking space with trees, cycle parking and parklets using Sustainable Urban Drainage principles, we would both improve the air locally, offset emissions and adapt to higher rainfall, reducing the risk of flash flooding.

2. Put low and zero carbon travel first

We'd radically improve conditions for walking and cycling for people of all ages and abilities. We would do this by making streets accessible to cars but not convenient as short-cuts. We’ve seen this work in Walthamstow, where traffic levels fell by 56%.

We’d create bus and cycle ‘gates’ that make taking the bus faster than taking a car or Uber. This would be useful on the Walworth Road, by Blue Anchor Library, and on Thurlow St. The council could ask TfL to do this on streets controlled by TfL, like Borough High St and on Duke St Hill by London Bridge.

We would deliver a cycling network that meets Londonwide quality standards by 2025 and create Low Traffic Neighbourhoods across the borough to prioritise walking.

Van Gogh Walk, a low traffic street in Lambeth.

3. Manage parking better to influence transport choices

We propose a rush hour ban on loading/unloading for combustion engine vehicles to reduce peak hour congestion and encourage use of zero-carbon freight cycles. We’d support freight cycle services by providing micro consolidation hubs. Team London Bridge are helping businesses based in their area to find cargo bike services that suit them. Cargo bikes take up less space than vans and offer more reliable journey times, as well as putting out zero emissions.

Photo from https://www.outspokencycles.co.uk/london-bridge-cargo-bike-expo/

At the moment there’s a confusing range of ‘click and collect’ services. We’d produce an interactive map of the best places to pick up parcels rather than getting them delivered to work or home.

Southwark has fewer Controlled Parking Zones than most other London boroughs. We think CPZs are a good way to reduce the dominance of our streets by parked cars, to help ensure car owners can park nearer home, and to discourage the most polluting vehicles.

A small but emblematic action: while parking places are needed near shops, why does Southwark Council offer private car-owners a Christmas bonus with free parking on shopping parades? Instead, we'd encourage everyone to shop local with incentives for walking and cycling, like free cargo bike deliveries along the lines of the Waltham Forest Christmas Courier.

4 Enable lower & zero emission movement

We need investment to help people choose an alternative to the private car. We would roll out the TfL Cycle Hire scheme to include the whole area within the Overground in Southwark (i.e. including Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill & Rotherhithe) by 2022. We’d work with companies providing e-bikes and e-cars for whole borough.

We support the idea of TfL taking control of south London railway lines to improve reliability and quality of the service. And we need big improvements to key stations like Peckham Rye that still shamefully have no step-free access. Denmark Hill has more passengers per day passing through it than Nottingham – and is dangerously overcrowded at peak times.

Buses, vans and cars travelling at lower speeds takes less energy, and improves safety for pedestrians. We’d make the council fleet of vans and cars, as well as their subcontractors,  use Intelligent Speed Adaptation. We’d push for it to be rolled out on local buses by TfL too.

5. Engage people

It’s hard to know how we’re doing as a borough, with figures buried in official reports. So we’d create a live digital dashboard showing annual reductions in emissions and daily progress in getting people travelling actively - like a smart meter for Southwark transport. How many people are cycling down the Walworth Road today? How many delivery companies have changed to electric or pedal power? We'd talk to neighbours and community groups from early on about their ideas for the methods and locations for measures to reduce traffic and air pollution. We'd test out ideas using temporary, colourful materials – try it out with straw bales and paint for a month before installing concrete slabs!

How will we pay for it?

Getting drivers to pay a fairer contribution to the costs they impose on us all will encourage other forms of travel. All the money raised from parking charges has to be spent on transport improvements, so they help improve other forms of travel.  Consider how much we are paying now to keep things as they are. Asthma alone costs the UK health service at least £1.1 billion each year, with the health service in Southwark particularly badly affected. And there's a heavy human cost too. We can’t carry on with business as usual. It’s killing us.

Other parts of our plan simply involve a redirection of money that Southwark Council already receives from Transport for London.

Some of these ideas might seem a bit off-the-wall – but measures introduced by the London Assembly like the Congestion Charge and the Ultra Low Emission Zone have been established without any of the chaos predicted by some commentators.  

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Third Thursday Green Drinks

Are you wondering where to get started with Southwark Greens? Have you tried a Third Thursday social? Third Thursdays are a great way for a new member to meet fellow Greens, as I discovered last week.

A group of us gathered at The Remakery, a not-for-profit maker-space under a block of flats off Coldharbour Lane. Over coffee and nibbles we introduced ourselves and I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only newbie. We were then welcomed by Dylan, a volunteer and resident maker, who gave us a brief history of the transformation from burnt out garages to creative community.

Then it was time for a tour the facilities – spaces for woodworking, metalwork and upholstery as well as a communal kitchen, fitted out with salvaged materials for just £45. Members can subscribe for 10, 20 or 30 hours a month - membership starts as low as £18 for 10 hours a month. (Full details here.) If you need advice or a helping hand, the resident makers like Dylan are there to guide you. If you want to learn new skills there are regular courses. Guitars from old tables, tables that began life as scaffolding planks, a menagerie of animals fashioned from old paint tins filled the corridor, ready for the upcoming open studio weekend.

The highlight for some of us was the Aladdin’s cave of donated, scavenged and salvaged materials at the far end of the space. Members can take their pick – anything from a high value piece of hardwood for a creative project to an offcut to practise drilling and sawing.

The conversation flowed, connections were made, ideas sparked. And this newcomer even found herself inspired to write about it!

Photos: Bartley Shaw

The next Third Thursday social will be a picnic in Burgess Park on Thursday 18 July, 6.30pm. All ages welcome.

 

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